2021 NFL: AFC West Division Preview

by Sean Murphy

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021
We wrap up our AFC division previews with the West, where the Kansas City Chiefs are once again favored to finish in top spot. Here's a quick look at what to expect from all four teams heading into the 2021 season.

Odds to win (courtesy of BetOnline)

Kansas City Chiefs -250
Los Angeles Chargers +500
Denver Broncos +525
Las Vegas Raiders +1400

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs begin their quest for a second Lombardi Trophy in three years as they host another top AFC contender in the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. All of the usual suspects are back for Kansas City and if the preseason is any indication, the offense appears to already be rounding into midseason form as we turn the calendar page over to September. The sight of a healthy Patrick Mahomes under center is a scary sight for Chiefs opponents after he dealt with nagging injuries late last season. The offensive line gets a boost with the acquisitions of Orlando Brown Jr. and Joe Thuney. Kansas City's defense always seems to be overshadowed by the offense but that unit is well-positioned to excel once again in 2021. Of note is the recent arrest of Frank Clark. If he's forced to miss time that could somewhat diminish the Chiefs vaunted pass rush.

Los Angeles Chargers

Optimism is running rampant in Chargers camp as they look to take a big step forward in QB Justin Herbert's first full season at the helm. The defense proved to be Los Angeles' achilles heel last season, largely due to injuries. With that unit healthy the sky is the limit for this Chargers squad. Remember, the Chargers also lost do-it-all RB Austin Ekeler to injury early last season. He's arguably the focal point of the offense and if he can stay healthy this year, he'll certainly help Herbert continue his ascension to superstar status. The Chargers currently have three primetime games on the schedule and open the campaign with a trip across the country to face the Washington Football Team in an early window contest in the nation's capital.

Denver Broncos

Teddy Bridgewater has been named the Broncos starting quarterback to open the season. He won't take as many risks as Drew Lock and should be a better fit in the offense with a host of talented wide receivers to work with. Second-round draft pick RB Javonte Williams is likely to take over for veteran Melvin Gordon before long. Of course, defense has generally been the Broncos strong suit in recent years and that unit gets a major boost with the return of elite pass rusher Von Miller this season. He and Bradley Chubb are capable of disrupting even the most elite offenses. Denver gets a soft opening to the season with matchups against the Giants, Jaguars and Jets in Weeks 1 through 3 before the schedule toughens up with a date against the Ravens in Week 3.

Las Vegas Raiders

There's just not a lot for the Raiders to hang their hat on entering the 2021 season with a lack of a real identity on either side of the football. You have to wonder how long it will be before head coach Jon Gruden is on the hot seat should the Raiders get off to another poor start. There are solid pieces in place on offense with RB Josh Jacobs, TE Darren Waller and WR Henry Ruggs all capable of turning in big seasons. It does seem that QB Derek Carr continues to hold the unit back in terms of its explosiveness. Defensively, the Raiders added a quality pass rusher in Yannick Ngakoue from the Ravens but their weakness remains in the secondary, where they gave up far too many big plays last season and don't figure to improve much in 2021. With the Ravens and Steelers on tap to open the season, an 0-2 start is likely in the cards. 

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